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New Fairfax police chief says decades-old incidents make him more committed to reform

New Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, accused in two use of force incidents in the 1990s, says his own past helped kindle a fierce commitment to police reform

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — When it comes to police reform, Fairfax County's brand new police chief, Kevin Davis, says he'll make the Fairfax department a national leader.  

"I'm all about accountability, both for police officers, myself, and for people who commit crimes," he said at a news conference Friday. "There has to be a pathway back to success."

But the chief faces questions about whether his own past could make his mission harder. Two incidents when he was a young patrol officer in Prince George's County have made some civil rights activists in Fairfax County skeptical.

In 1999, a group of Prince George's narcotics officers, including Davis, were accused of a rough interrogation of a teen in the disappearance of his girlfriend.

"Threatened him repeatedly, gun in his face, hit his face, had his head slammed," a lawyer for the teen, Brian Romjue, said after filing a lawsuit against Davis and three other officers after the incident.

"How do you protect them from the police anyway?"Brian's father, William Romjue, asked at the time. "How do you protect anyone from people with guns and badges?"

Davis said it was a mistake, that he grabbed the teen under orders of a deputy police chief, who it turns out was the girl's uncle.

"We should have asked more questions," he said of the deputy chief's orders. "We should have been more skeptical, we should have been more cynical, but, but we weren't."

In 1993, Davis stopped Mark Spann, a White House intern with dreams of a law career. An argument and an arrest left Spann bleeding from the head.

"I was 24 in 1993," he said on Friday. "Would a 52-year-old Kevin Davis handle that incident differently now? No doubt about it. Would a 52-year-old Mark Spann handle that incident now differently? I don't know, maybe he would as well."

Chief Davis said his three decades of policing have been a journey, and that those incidents have shaped him, and made him even more committed to police reform.

County leaders say they're convinced he’ll survive this.

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